China-US tariff concerns stalk markets once again

An investor walks in front of private stock trading boards at a private stock market gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. Asian markets tumbled on Friday after U.S. President Donald Trump said he doesn’t plan to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping before a tariffs ceasefire ends in March. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)
An investor walks in front of private stock trading boards at a private stock market gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. Asian markets tumbled on Friday after U.S. President Donald Trump said he doesn’t plan to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping before a tariffs ceasefire ends in March. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

SINGAPORE — Global stock markets drifted lower Friday after President Donald Trump said he doesn't plan to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping before their truce on raising tariffs in a festering trade dispute ends in early March.

In Europe, France's CAC 40 fell 0.2 percent to 4,974 while the DAX in Germany was down 0.6 percent at 10.955. Britain's FTSE 100 index was 0.2 percent lower at 7,078. Wall Street was set for early losses with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 down 0.6 percent.

The broad-based declines are largely a result of the news that Trump indicated that he would not be meeting his Chinese counterpart before March 2, which marks the end of a 90-day tariffs truce mooted after Trump and Xi met in December.

Unless American and Chinese negotiators come to a new agreement, the U.S. is expected to raise import taxes from 10 percent to 25 percent for $200 billion in Chinese goods. The trade dispute between the world's two largest economies, which has cooled in recent months, has weighed on the outlook of businesses and the global economy.

Connor Campbell, an analyst at Spreadex, said the news has "cast doubt on the chances of reaching a tariff hike-avoiding deal in time."

U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and trade representative Robert Lighthizer are to lead a delegation to Beijing next week for the next round of trade talks. Officials have reported little progress on contentious issues but are hopeful that a deal will be struck.

THE DAY IN ASIA: Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed 2 percent lower at 20,333.17. Hong Kong's Hang Seng, reopening after a Lunar New Year break, gave up 0.2 percent to 27,946.32. The Kospi in South Korea declined 1.2 percent to 2,177.05 and Australia's S&P ASX 200 was down 0.3 percent at 6,071.50.

ENERGY: U.S. crude oil fell 25 cents to $52.39 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 13 cents to $61.76 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The euro was flat at $1.1337 while the dollar was steady at 109.79 yen.

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